PUTRAJAYA - Thai authorities have handed over several people believed to be key suspects behind the massive human smuggling syndicate to Malaysia.
But the most influential of them all, known as Yassin, is still at large.
Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Thai authorities were tracking down Yassin.
"He fled to Thailand. With the co-operation of our counterparts in the country, we will bring Yassin to Malaysia and charge him," he said after receiving a courtesy call from French ambassador to Malaysia Christophe Penot yesterday.
Kedah Rohingya Society in Malaysia deputy chairman Yusof Ali was recently quoted as saying that Yassin was the agent responsible for "buying" Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants from a syndicate operating in southern Thailand.
He said the migrants were kept temporarily at transit camps in Wang Kelian before they were "sold".
Yassin, a Rohingya in his 30s who lived in southern Thailand, could have slipped back into Myanmar after his cover was blown last month, he added.
Dr Ahmad Zahid said those handed over to the Malaysian police were still being interrogated.
"Once completed, we will hand over the case to the Deputy Public Prosecutor," he said, declining to reveal the number of suspects.
Later, after a visit to the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters, Dr Ahmad Zahid said the police had identified more than three kingpins responsible for the human trafficking ring involving Malaysia and several countries, including Thailand and Myanmar.
"I am confident that there are more than three of them. We believe some of them have fled the country, while some are still here.
"Mark my words, there is nowhere they can hide. We are coming for each and every one of them," he said.
He explained that the human trafficking camps uncovered on the Malaysian side of the border were temporary camps, while those found on the Thai side were semi-permanent camps.
"If Thai authorities hunt them, then the illegal immigrants will run to the Malaysian side through secret routes and passages.
"When the situation is clear, the same illegal immigrants will return to the Thai side of the border," he said.